Politics

11 Things to Know about Scott Lively, the Anti-Gay Pastor Challenging Charlie Baker

The notorious homophobe has the blessing of the MassGOP to face Governor Baker in a primary.


Photo via SHNS/Sam Doran

Scott Lively is not going to be the governor. You know it. He knows it. And the delegates at the MassGOP Convention, who helped him move on to a primary battle with Charlie Baker, likely know it too.

But that hasn’t stopped the pastor and world-renowned homophobe from going through the motions this year, giving him plenty of opportunities to rail against the “gay agenda” on a major political stage.

For this you can thank the 2018 MassGOP Convention, where nearly 28 percent of delegates in Worcester this weekend endorsed Lively, helping him clear the 15 percent minimum needed to tee up a primary challenge against Charlie Baker.

Lively has pitched himself as the pro-Trump answer to Baker, who is critical of the president, arguing over the weekend that “We need real conservative values in Massachusetts.” He didn’t get into the details of his anti-LGBT crusade during his convention speech, but Baker, whose team had hoped to keep Lively’s share of delegates below the 15 percent threshold, expressed some concern about his soon-to-be primary rival’s message. “There’s no place and no point in public life, and any life, for a lot of the things Scott Lively says and believes, OK?,” Baker told reporters. “And that’s why I’m pleased that 7 out of 10 delegates in that convention chose us as their nominees to represent them in the fall.”

The primary is scheduled for September 4. Baker refused to say whether he would debate him.

But it’s helpful for the uninitiated to learn a thing or two about the man before this gets started (helpfully, Boston profiled Lively back in 2013). So here are 11 things you should know about the pastor, who 626 people suggested should be governor on Saturday.

He spread anti-gay vitriol in Uganda

If you know about Lively, it probably has a lot to do with his rise to infamy in 2009, when he traveled to Uganda to rail against the “gay agenda” and promote the idea that the country should crack down on its gay population, characterizing the LGBT community as rapists and pedophiles. He also compared gay men to animals and suggested to Ugandan lawmakers that gays were responsible for carrying out the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.

“They are so far from normalcy that they’re killers. They’re serial killers, mass murderers. They’re sociopaths,” he said in one of his talks, in reference to a category of LGBT people he says are the most dangerous.  “There’s no mercy at all, there’s no nurturing, no caring about anybody else…This is the kind of person it takes to run a gas chamber.”

In another: “You can’t stop [them] from molesting children,” he said, “or stop them from having sex with animals.”

And it sparked a violent crackdown in the country

His tour through the country, LGBT advocates say, provoked a panic in Uganda, inspiring headlines like “HANG THEM; THEY ARE AFTER OUR KIDS” and leading papers to print the names and images of gay people.

Not long after his visit, Ugandan officials proposed the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act. Dubbed a “Kill the Gays” bill in Western media, it included death sentences for some LGBT citizens for crimes that included gay sex. Under pressure, the officials swapped the death penalty punishment with one calling for lengthy prison sentences. Still, in 2014, the country’s constitutional court struck it down. A newly festering movement is underway to bring it back.

Lively said at the time he didn’t support the Ugandan law as it was written, and pushed back on suggestions that he supports the death penalty for gay people. “In my view, homosexuality (indeed all sex outside of marriage) should be actively discouraged by society — but only as aggressively as necessary to prevent the mainstreaming of alternative sexual lifestyles, and with concern for the preservation of the liberties of those who desire to keep their personal lifestyles private,” he wrote on his blog in 2009. Instead, he says, he supports “therapy.”

Ugandan activists ultimately took him to court for “crimes against humanity” 

U.S District Court judge Michael Ponsor last year dismissed a case brought by a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, which alleged that Lively’s campaign in the African country had played a role in the persecution of gay Ugandans. Ponsor said at the time the dismissal was related only to jurisdiction, while adding that he was in agreement with the pro-LGBT rights group’s charges and condemned Lively’s “crackpot bigotry.”

“Defendant Scott Lively is an American citizen who has aided and abetted a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI persons in Uganda,” Ponsor said.

Lively told the Daily Beast after the decision that he was “delighted” by the ruling and dismissed the judge’s statements as progressive posturing.

Now he’s suing back

In response, Lively has embarked on a legal battle of his own, seeking to have Ponsor’s condemnations cut out of his ruling. His lawyers argue that the judge “improperly littered his order with a prolonged tirade against Lively, badly distorting his Christian views and activism.” The case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals and oral arguments are scheduled for June 7, reports the Boston Globe.

He has pushed ludicrous theories about gay Nazis

“While we cannot say that homosexuals caused the Holocaust,” he and colleague Kevin Abrams wrote in a thoroughly debunked 1995 book called The Pink Swastika, “we must not ignore their central role in Nazism. To the myth of the ‘pink triangle’—the notion that all homosexuals in Nazi Germany were persecuted—we must respond with the reality of the ‘pink swastika.’”

He calls the Russian anti-gay law “one of the proudest achievements of my career

Lively has praised a Russian law passed in 2013 that bans “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” which authorities have used to crack down on pride marches and detain LGBT activists. He believes his advocacy helped inspire the law, which has since been deemed discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights. “I indirectly assisted in that,” he said, “and it’s one of the proudest achievements of my career.”

He has LGBT siblings

“I have a brother and a sister who went into homosexuality,” he said in Uganda. “I know about these things personally. After 20 years of observing this as my primary emphasis of my ministry…I know more about this than almost anyone in the world.”

He calls Massachusetts “the most morally corrupt state in the Union

Thanks to our health care system and legacy as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

He also ran in 2014 as an independent

And finished with less than 1 percent of the vote.

He thinks the fact that all the negative reaction to his message helps his cause

“To be blamed for a campaign of hate and violence, when that’s the opposite of what I believe, was really tough,” he told Boston in 2013. “And after 20 years of being in this issue, I came out of it with more resolve and more courage. I’ve got skin like a rhinoceros. So now it’s like, ‘Bring it on.’”

He celebrated an explosion in Springfield as an “answer to our prayers”

After an explosion under a Springfield strip club injured at least 18 people in 2012, Lively wrote on his blog that the incident was divine intervention, and that he would pray “for the further cleansing of Springfield.”

“I believe this was the hand of God at work,” he wrote, “in answer to our prayers.”